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Angels Leave 'Em Laughing With 7-6 Loss

September 03, 1987|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

TORONTO — SCTV, a Canadian-based comedy troupe, is no longer on the air, but comedy lives on in the Second City. Wednesday, the fare was slapstick, presented at its lowest form by Angels.

The town that made John Candy famous made Gene Mauch embarrassed, but then, farce is only funny when pie doesn't land in your own face. And although the third inning of the Angels' 7-6 loss to Toronto was laughable--Jerry Reuss' mound dance is coming to a bloopers-fest near you--Mauch took it all in with a grimace and a wince.

The Angel manager began the inning by watching Gold Glove center fielder Gary Pettis misplay a fly ball by Kelly Gruber, retreat frantically and then reach up in desperation, having the ball glance off his glove for a triple.

Then, Mauch watched Reuss walk Charlie Moore before setting in motion the play everyone except Mauch was talking about later.

To Mauch, the play defied description.

"I get too confused by plays like that to even ask questions," he said.

Nelson Liriano got the ball rolling by rolling the ball toward the left side of the mound. Tumbling off the mound after his delivery, Reuss backhanded the ball and looked to second base, intent on starting a double play.

Just then, cries of "Home! Home!" filled the air, so Reuss hopped around and faced home. No play there, he thought. So Reuss hopped again, looking back at second. No play there, either, Reuss decided.

What to do? With a little shuffle of his feet, Reuss looked at first base, thought about it for an instant, and then committed himself--wheeling and throwing off-balance, flinging the ball past first baseman Wally Joyner and down the line.

Gruber scored, and on the error, Moore wound up on third base and Liriano on second.

Lloyd Moseby and Tony Fernandez followed with run-scoring singles, knocking Reuss out of the game, and Rick Leach's single against reliever Willie Fraser brought home another run.

"We turned a one-run inning into a four-run inning," Mauch said, his voice hoarse from venting his anger in the dugout and clubhouse. "A lot of good stuff turned to hell because of a little bad stuff."

Mauch thought Gruber's ball was catchable but regarded the play on Liriano's ball as inexcusable.

"If that had happened at Fremont High School, we'd have been running laps till dark," Mauch said.

Instead, the punishment for the Angels was another one-run loss to the Blue Jays. After rallying from a 5-2 deficit to tie the game, 5-5, the Angels collapsed under the weight of a two-run home run by George Bell in the eighth inning.

Bell, who leads the American League with 42 home runs and 115 RBIs, has been known to do such a thing. "I can handle that," Mauch said.

Mauch couldn't handle the botched grounder in the third inning.

Reuss accepted the blame, although catcher Jack Fimple and third baseman Jack Howell--the two who yelled for Reuss to throw home--were accessories.

"The way that play is supposed to be done, I'm supposed to look the runner (on third) back and go for a double play," Reuss said. "I fielded it and looked at second, but right then, somebody yelled, 'Home!'

"So, I turned toward home, but I didn't think I had time to make a play. Then, I threw to first and it seemed like I panicked. I just reacted and acted poorly.

"I blew it."

Fimple and Howell may have blown it, too.

"He went for the double play initially and he had the right play," Fimple said. "When he heard Jack and me yelling, I think it confused him. He got sidetracked, and by the time he looked back at second, the double play was out of order and he was out of balance."

At the time, the Angels led, 2-1. In such early-inning situations, baseball fundamentals dictate that you let the run score and go for the double play.

Fimple was reminded of this when he returned to the dugout.

"In the early innings, with nobody out, it's probably better to give up the run," Fimple said. But he disagreed with Reuss' contention that the pitcher had no chance to throw out Gruber at the plate.

"I called, 'Home!' as soon as (Gruber) broke for home," Fimple said. "He was out easily at home.

"It was probably more my mistake and Jack's mistake than Jerry's mistake. My thinking was, with nobody out, don't let the run score. Obviously, that was not what Jerry was thinking."

The defensive breakdown led to a four-run inning for Toronto, which turned a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 advantage. The Angels came back to tie on home runs by Devon White and George Hendrick, only to give the game away on Bell's homer.

Bell hit it off DeWayne Buice (5-6), who continues to pitch raggedly after his eight-day layoff due to rib soreness. Buice returned Monday, allowing four runs in one-third of an inning, and Wednesday, he served up a two-run home run before getting an out.

"Rustiness, there's no pain or anything," Buice said. "It just feels like it's been a month since I've been out there."

Buice walked the first batter he faced, Fernandez, and then surrendered Bell's home run on a 3-and-0 pitch.

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